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SEO in Times of Voice-Activated Apps: How to Make Voice Search Work for You

Probably when Siri appeared in our life for the first time, the idea of talking to your device sounded like a whim or a funny activity to test Artificial Intelligence. By now, the use of voice-activated assistants has become an everyday experience. Siri, Google Assistant, and Cortana from our mobile devices and Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple’s HomePod in our house are always ready to answer our question of complete a task. Such spreading of voice-activated applications has changed the way we perform a search in the Internet shifting it from typing keywords to asking direct

Voice search is being increasingly used by customers to find businesses around them, complete tasks, or just help them go about their day-to-day life. By 2020, Gartner predicts that 30% of all searches will take place without a screen altogether, meaning voice or image search. Andrew Ng, then Chief Scientist at Baidu stated in September 2014 that “In five years’ time, at least 50% of all searches are going to be either through images or speech” — the prediction that has spread all over the market.

Accurate or not, we already see how the voice search is changing our way of communication with our devices and our ideas and expectations of search. Check out a few of these stats that substantiate how much voice search has changed life as we know it, and how it’ll shape the future as well.

What it means for users

The key to unlocking the power of voice search is its convenience. Throughout history, we can see that as technology develops and advances, it makes life easier for people and this, in turn, changes the behavior of consumers.

Similarly in our search habits, with more people using their smartphones to search for products and services, many will begin to use the voice capability to speak into the search engine rather than trying to type on the go. New voice technology makes it easier than ever for people to gather information and answers from search results.

Voice-activated applications are already changing our habits in many aspects.

The most important difference in voice search query behavior is that the query string tends to be longer than keyboard written text queries. 41% of people admit they talk to voice assistants as if they were a friend(5). Obviously, voice search behavior similarly differs in comparison to manual searches: if you are typing a search for places to buy pizza, you might input something like “Best Pizza near me.” However, using voice search, we’ll end up in a conversational style, asking “Where are the closest pizza restaurants to me?”

We’re already seeing consumer expectations migrating from links to answers. And virtual assistants will also continue to evolve from answers to actions, making our search more individualized, accurate, and based on voice and visual inputs.

What it means for businesses

In the present-day search, as in the case with many new technologies, businesses need to make sure they can be found by voice or they risk being left on the sidelines. However, new challenges can open new opportunities for growth is addressed intelligently:

Businesses should see voice search as an opportunity to develop a conversation with their audience. Forward-thinking brands will adapt their websites content to engage in conversational search, rather than just short Q&A exchanges to engage with the public and build up interest in their products and loyalty.

It is a powerful and rapidly growing area of search marketing. To get in front of the consumer, businesses should answer their questions in a way that is accessible to voice search and try to understand how your users will be searching given that voice is faster and more convenient than typing.

Thanks to the growing demand for location-based queries, plus the newer ‘near me’, ‘close by’ and other voice-based queries, online market opens its doors to SMEs and empowers them to compete more effectively in markets where they have premises, experts and audiences in place.

Changes in user experience will inevitably shape future advertising models. To be able to answer the new demands, businesses will have to move from text ads to voice ads, and from investing in clicks to answers and actions.

New SEO for voice search

If a business spends time, money, and effort on keyword optimization and potentially spends money on PPC advertising it is missing a growing sector in the search market. As both small businesses and chain companies start taking voice search queries into consideration, they are looking to the ways to optimize SEO for voice queries.

Typed and spoken searches will output different results. Besides, unlike with regular search results, where the second result for a search query is likely to attract a lot of valuable traffic, voice search only returns one answer to searchers from the number one best-optimized result. Therefore, optimizing a website for a traditional search doesn’t always look the same as optimizing the same site for voice search. Here we will try to explore the most essential factors to consider when optimizing for voice search:

Using assistants. You can start simply from getting a voice-activated application and asking questions relevant to your products and business. You can learn what the assistants can answer and what the gaps in their answers are and how you can rewrite your product description accordingly. Further, you can bulk query assistants and classify the results by type to pick a key phrase where we could provide an answer either with a web answer box or using a Google action. If you don’t have a device you can use https://echosim.io/ welcome or https://allo.google.com/ which are web versions of the two assistants.

Conversational approach. In order to optimize content for voice search, you need to understand how your audience speaks about your products and services and what questions they ask. The content you create should answer those questions or include these more natural language queries, including conversational keywords or long-tail keywords . Modify your SEO strategy to include researching and understanding LSI (latent semantic indexing) keywords. LSI keywords are closely related to or synonyms of your main keyword and are natural language variations that can help your content rank for your main keyword and more. So, using synonyms and trying to give the searcher all the information they can consume related to their query, is likely to increase the site visibility. These tricks will enable you to create content that helps search engines determine the context of the page so it can deliver the right content based on user intent.

Data structuring. Structuring of data for a growing number of informational queries will be a logical evolution of SEO. Structured data is a code added to HTML markup that is used by search engines to better understand a site’s content. Therefore, structured data can help search engines crawl and read your content efficiently. With schema markup, you can better control the way you provide information about your brand, and the way machines interpret it. Implementing structured data results in more powerful snippets.

Featured snippets. Featured snippets are selected search results that are featured on top of Google’s organic results below the ads in a box and are believed to provide the most relevant content or to give a direct answer. They are known to increase click-through rate, drive traffic, and bring you competitive advantages. You can be sure that if the results include a featured snippet, your voice assistant will pull its answer from there.

So if you optimize for voice search what you’re really optimizing for is featured snippets. This means looking at the featured snippets that appear for queries you’d like to rank for and considering whether the format of that snippet is ideal. If it looks optimal, you can mimic it with your content to take its place (same format but better quality) and if not, produce content that would rank but in a format that makes more sense. For example, if a question can be better answered by a list — make content that includes a list, not a long description.

User intent. User intent tells us the reason a person entered a query into a search engine: to buy a product or to look for a recommendation, to compare different options, or to get new information? Sometimes the intent is obvious and clearly expressed in the query with words such as “buy,” “price,” “how-to,” “what is,” etc. But other times, intent hides only in a user’s mind. To enhance the relevance of your pages to specific search queries you should always consider user intent when creating content. To succeed, businesses should seek to answer questions, and provide details wherever possible. At the same time, the same steps you take to optimize for answer boxes are going to help you in voice search.

Mobile-friendly is voice-friendly. The recent course of development of search algorithms has already made search engine marketing a “mobile-first” environment. Since most voice searches come from mobile devices, it might be beneficial to focus specifically on voice search optimization. Besides, much of what you can do to optimize for voice search is also beneficial for mobile-first optimization.

It is still dubious whether one day we’ll see that search engines switch to prioritizing voice-friendly results or our habits of typing queries into search engines fade away, but voice commands will undoubtedly have a big impact on search marketing. Since almost every effort you can take to optimize for voice search might be beneficial to your SEO efforts overall, it is a good idea to start focusing on voice optimization. Incorporating voice search optimization strategies into your overall optimization efforts can help you ensure you’re prepared for the voice-driven future.

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